Friday, August 9, 2013

Why Use Conditions?

I realized I kind of jumped the gun when I posted my tweaks for Fate Core conditions so I'm going to talk about my thought process for deciding to use them.

First off, I like consequences a whole lot. And stress tracks. They're hands down one of my favorite "damage mechanics" of any game. In fact, I like stress tracks so much that whenever there's a need to track timing, or pacing, or progress of some kind my first instinct is to use a stress track. This leads to "stress track creep." In my original Strands of Fate conversion for Tribe 8, I had a whole bunch of them - I think five for characters and at least a couple other setting-level tracks. When I started working on a Fate Core version of Tribe 8, I said I wasn't going to add any more - and I still did. It bugged me because I had tried to take a reductionist perspective to breaking out various elements I thought should be in Fate of Vimary, but I couldn't shake myself out of the mindset that I needed physical, mental, social, spiritual, etc. stress tracks.

Yo stress track

Reading about conditions in the Fate System Toolkit made a light go on in my head, but I wanted to sit on them a bit. I didn't want to use them just because they were new or different. Having moved recently, I had a (forced) break from the Fate of Vimary material and only recently was able to come back around to looking things over. When I did I realized that conditions were what I needed and a number of things struck me about them.

First is that a set of carefully defined conditions could be just as flexible as naming consequences on the fly yet still go a long way toward communicating a specific feel. In fact, in the long term I figured most consequences representing the same general concept would wind up looking pretty similar. So why not just name them ahead of time? The exact details after that are just window dressing. Second, in a game where stress was coming from a larger number of sources, with as many stress tracks as I had it would lead to consequences being in play less and not more (by virtue of having more stress boxes that needed to be checked off). I know I want some kind of minor consequences - or in this case fleeting conditions - in play the majority of the time.

As a result I started looking at what a conditions list might look like for Fate of Vimary. I wanted the names and the balance between fleeting, sticky and lasting conditions to be just right. I'm very happy with the end result. On top of that, I've become aware of just how much is going on in what seems like a simplified concept. For one, the broad nature of how they are named - Exhausted, Disoriented, Bloodied, Broken, etc. - are suitable for a variety of stress. You can be mentally or spiritually exhausted, or emotionally broken, or socially bruised. Having the conditions has also streamlined the process of revising some of the Synthesis stunts I had adapted. Granted all of this is possible using consequences, but conditions tighten things up quite a bit.

For most Fate Core games I'd use off-the-shelf stress tracks and consequences. But for something a bit more targeted, like Tribe 8, conditions are a great way to tweak the tone of the setting without straying too far spiritually from the core rules.